Working for Smart Growth:
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New Report Outlines Coastal Resilience Strategies

December 13th, 2017 by David Kutner

Recommendations include steps communities and the state can take to protect against future storms and sea-level rise.

U.S. Air Force photo of Sandy damage to the Jersey Shore.

New Jersey Future has released a report outlining strategies coastal communities can take to respond to the impacts of rising seas and increased flooding. The report is a product of the Sustainable and Resilient Coastal Communities project, funded by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Office of Coastal and Land Use Planning. Read the rest of this entry »

How the Fourth Regional Plan Could Affect New Jersey

December 12th, 2017 by Kandyce Perry

A regional approach to planning ensures that the potential positive and negative impacts on a region are considered when local decisions are made. This lens helps to sustain the health of localities by examining larger and long-term impacts. For a state like New Jersey, regional planning comes in several forms, from multiple towns working together, to coastal resiliency planning and regional resource protection as seen in the Pinelands and Highlands, to interstate planning and cooperation. As a state nestled between two of the country’s largest cities (New York and Philadelphia) and in one of the largest world economies, regional planning offers an essential approach to long-term investment decision-making that can boost prosperity, sustainability, equity and health outcomes for the residents and businesses of the state. Read the rest of this entry »

Water Conference Urges Action From New Jersey’s New Administration

December 6th, 2017 by Emily Eckart

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka delivering opening remarks at the Jersey Water Works Conference.

New Jersey’s water infrastructure is failing, and the state must act now before the problem worsens. This theme echoed repeatedly at the third annual Jersey Water Works Conference on December 1, which attracted nearly 300 participants from a wide range of professions. Jersey Water Works, a collaborative organization of over 350 members, advocates for transforming New Jersey’s aging water infrastructure. The group recently conducted a survey that found protecting drinking water is the top environmental issue for New Jerseyans, rating twice as high in importance as cleaning up toxic spills or reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, when asked to select a top water priority for New Jersey’s governor and Legislature, at least three-quarters of New Jerseyans chose securing safe drinking water. As Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said in his welcoming remarks, “Water is the most important resource we have.”

Many New Jersey residents value clean drinking water, but there is a lack of public awareness about how precarious the state’s aging infrastructure is. Problems like leaking pipes, combined sewer overflows, and lead in water are not as obvious as potholes. As Mike Elmendorf, president and chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of New York State said, “People don’t think about this stuff until it’s broken.”

Read the full recap of the conference over on the Jersey Water Works website.

Also at the conference, the collaborative released a white paper on the urgent need for investment in upgrading the state’s water infrastructure, and presented the inaugural New Jersey One Water Awards.

A Year One Clean Water Agenda for the New Governor

November 30th, 2017 by Chris Sturm

Representatives from 34 public-sector, private-sector and nonprofit organizations have together released a proposed Year One Clean Water Agenda for incoming Governor Phil Murphy, encouraging him to make investment in clean water a priority during the first year of his administration. Supporters include leaders in the utility, environmental, community development, agriculture, municipal, smart growth, industry, engineering, resilience, and planning sectors.

Among the recommendations in the Year One Clean Water Agenda:

  • Launch a high-profile “Clean Water” campaign to promote awareness and action among the public and elected and appointed officials on issues including lead contamination in drinking water, aging infrastructure, and combined sewer overflows.
  • By partnering with local officials, ensure effective combined sewer overflow plans are developed and implemented.
  • Help water utilities finance infrastructure upgrades to modernize aging water systems and ensure cost-effective operations and maintenance.
  • Update the state’s stormwater regulations to drive and reward nature-based green infrastructure techniques in development and redevelopment projects.
  • Get the lead out of drinking water in homes and schools. Publish a statewide assessment of lead in school drinking water that identifies the extent of the problem in each school district and associated needs for assistance.
  • Launch a public process to recommend statewide policies and programs to ensure water and sewer services are affordable to all ratepayers.
  • Enact legislation that permits the establishment of local and regional stormwater utilities and subsequent revenue generation to support infrastructure and management.

The agenda was crafted over a two-month period by representatives of the Association of Environmental Authorities of New Jersey, Ironbound Community Corporation, Natural Resources Defense Council, NY/NJ Baykeeper and New Jersey Future.

The full Year One Clean Water Agenda, including the list of signatories, is available here. The news release announcing the agenda is available here.

Smart-Growth Policy Priorities Well Represented on Murphy Transition Team

November 27th, 2017 by Elaine Clisham

Among those named to Gov.-elect Phil Murphy’s transition team are 15 experts who have a current or prior affiliation with New Jersey Future, a sign that the priorities of the incoming administration will include some of the key issues outlined in New Jersey Future’s gubernatorial blueprint. Read the rest of this entry »

A Rain Garden Grows in Harrison

November 22nd, 2017 by Moriah Kinberg

Volunteers participating in the Harrison rain garden planting

At the first green infrastructure demonstration project in Harrison, Lou Lambe, president of the local Lions Club, told a group of volunteers, “This may seem like a small effort, but it is step in the direction we need to be taking for our future.” The two kidney-shaped rain gardens that the group planted at the foot of the public library can absorb a maximum of approximately 2,800 gallons of water per storm and as much as 38,000 gallons per year based on average rainfall.

Lambe is a member of Harrison TIDE (Transforming Infrastructure and Defending the Environment), whose goal is to improve the water quality and the quality of life of residents by addressing combined sewer and storm water pollution, flooding, and the need for economic development through identifying opportunities to implement green infrastructure, engage community members in educational programming, and public outreach. The group is a collaboration of the Town of Harrison, New Jersey Future, The Lions and Elks clubs, the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission (PVSC), Rutgers Cooperative Extension (RCE) Water Resources Program, and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

Harrison TIDE spent the past couple of months reviewing the Town of Harrison’s Green Infrastructure Feasibility Study, which was developed in partnership with PVSC and the RCE Water Resources Program, to identify the town’s first demonstration green infrastructure project. TIDE identified the public library not only as an opportunity to redirect water that runs off the roof into the rain garden and away from the storm drains, but also to provide an ongoing educational opportunity to the many visitors to the library.

An estimated 23 billion gallons of raw sewage are dumped into New Jersey’s waterways every year as a result of combined-sewer overflows, when stormwater exceeds the amount that the sewage treatment plant can take from the town. The Town of Harrison is one of 21 towns in New Jersey that are in the process of developing Long Term Control Plans (LTCPs) that will reduce or eliminate combined-sewer overflows. These LTCPs are system-wide evaluations of sewer systems and plans to reduce overflows that are required by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s 2015 permit. Part of the process is for each town to evaluate alternative strategies that could be used to reduce overflows in the most cost-effective way.  Green infrastructure installations such as rain gardens and tree trenches are alternatives that towns can use to help reduce storm-related overflows in combination with grey infrastructure like underground storage tanks and separating sewer lines.

Rutgers Water Resource Center conducting a public community training

The community came together to make this fist demonstration project a reality. Fields Construction Company, a local developer, provided the construction and labor.  Rutgers Water Resource Center designed the gardens and led training for the community. Local elected officials and volunteers from Harrison Lions Club, Harrison Elks, the Environmental Clubs from Harrison High School and Washington Middle School, Harrison High School’s National Honor Society chapter, and Boy Scout Troop 305 joined Harrison TIDE partners to plant the rain gardens. The gardens were planted with native species that will attract wildlife and promote infiltration of stormwater from the library’s roof back into the ground, keeping it out of the sewer system.

The planting in Harrison was a hands-on learning experience for the volunteers who participated and will continue to be a visible demonstration of green infrastructure of the community.  Green infrastructure projects can also raise property values and beautify neighborhoods at the same time that they help keep raw sewage out of the Passaic River.
For more information on Harrison TIDE visit its Facebook page.

What New Jersey Can Learn From Washington, D.C., About Transportation Improvements

November 17th, 2017 by Elaine Clisham

It seems the most effective strategy to reduce traffic congestion isn’t a transportation measure at all. It’s better land use.

welcome to new jersey traffic signA big new study was just released by Washington, D.C.’s regional Transportation Planning Board that identified the region’s biggest transportation challenges, took a high-level look at a series of possible interventions that might ameliorate them, and enumerated performance metrics by which they might measure any change. (The full list of all of these is below.) And while some of the interventions they included are more suitable to a suburban region around one large metropolitan center than they are to an entire state, there are important lessons in the findings that are applicable to New Jersey. Read the rest of this entry »

Rain Garden Partnership in Newton Brings Learning Opportunity, Better Water Quality

November 3rd, 2017 by Kandyce Perry

Many towns in New Jersey have streets, intersections, or parking lots that flood during heavy rains. And if a parking lot, for example, drains into a crucial waterway, it could pose a serious threat to water quality. How does a town fix this type of flooding problem?

It can be done with green infrastructure. Read the rest of this entry »

New Report Shows New Jersey Is Still on the ‘Long Road Home’ After Sandy

October 25th, 2017 by David Kutner

On Oct. 29, 2012, hurricane Sandy devastated many communities along New Jersey’s coast. Five years later, many families have yet to recover from the storm and are still not back in their homes. A new report entitled The Long Road Home, recently published by the New Jersey Resource Project, documents the journey of Sandy-affected families who continue to struggle to return to stable, permanent housing, and are still suffering the debilitating economic and health effects of the storm. Read the rest of this entry »

Symposium Addresses Dangers of Inaction on Climate Change

October 18th, 2017 by Emily Eckart

Memories of Hurricane Sandy loomed large at New Jersey Future’s The Shore of the Future symposium

“Dealing with Sandy was a nightmare for us,” said John Spodofora, mayor of Stafford Township and one of 11 panelists at the event. More than 4,000 homes in Stafford were severely damaged by the 2012 hurricane, totaling $200 million in property damage. The town lost millions in tax revenue. Spodofora remembered that many residents came into town hall crying, unsure where they were going to live. Five years later, only 65 percent of Stafford Township is rebuilt. The most difficult areas to rehabilitate make up the 35 percent that have still not recovered.

The Oct. 17 Shore of the Future symposium was centered on having a “big conversation” about the need for a regional approach to coastal resilience in the face of climate change. Although New Jersey has made some progress since the hurricane, the state has not yet organized a concerted effort to mitigate risk and adapt to rising sea levels. Approximately 200 attendees gathered at the Trenton War Memorial to hear from 14 experts across a wide range of fields. Read the rest of this entry »

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